I’ve called attention to Twila Paris before as a non-scandalized, constant voice in Christian music. From what I know of the late Rich Mullins, he was in a similar category, although not nearly as widely sung in churches. The familiar “Step By Step” is a product of his band–presumably more the creative work of the bandmate known as “Beaker,” and “Awesome God” is well known, but very little of Mullins’s music seems congregationally singable. Still, I’d like to share this review I wrote once for Worship Leader magazine:
The Jesus Record
Rich Mullins and a Ragamuffin Band
Drawn to the notion of listening to Rich Mullins’s pre-tragedy boom box demos, I rushed to the headphones and heard
these honest-hearted offerings to the Lord. The band’s fully developed renditions of the songs, just as pleasing, are on the second CD in the set.
In leading worship, we come to know the feeling of lonely distance from God as well as astounding intimacy. The laments in “Hard To Get” turn toward God in open inquiry: Is He is purposefully keeping His distance? I may be “only lashing out at the one who loves me most,” but my soul needs answers sometimes: “You who live in radiance, hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin. . . .”
The hit single “My Deliverer,” like other cuts, has undergone an effective ‘Muffin metamorphosis. And though “That Where I Am, There You . . .” isn’t a creative pinnacle, anyone can sing along with it.
The pleading, hauntingly beautiful “Jesus . . .” and “Nothing Is Beyond You” are extraordinary solo worship pieces. Amy Grant’s earnest, engaging vocals on the latter make me wish it were more geared for the average congregational worshipper. “All the Way to Kingdom Come” is a praise tribute in a southern rock milieu.
This album’s earthy warmth — characteristic of Mullins — glows brightly amid the sometimes-mechanized expressions of today’s worship music. Though the meandering lyrics of several songs are inspired reflections of the artistry of Rich Mullins, not many are likely to be widely used in congregational worship. Nevertheless, get this album to nourish your own spirit.
– Brian Casey, 1998